Moncrieff: 294-307; Sturrock: 214-223
by Dennis Abrams
Mme de Cambremer-Legrandin announces it’s time to leave, “I’m afraid my mother-in-law’s cutting rather fine: she’s forgotten that we’ve got my uncle de Ch’nouville dining. Her pronounciation of “Chenouville,” and her Chenouville relatives. Her pride in learning to “d’Uzai,” instead of “d’Uzes.” “…the considerable and so honourably acquired fortune that she had inherited from her father, the finished education that she had received, her assiduous attendance at the Sorbonne, whether at Caro’s lectures or at Brunetiere’s, and at the Lamboureux concerts, all this was to vanish into thin air, to find its ultimate sublimination in the pleasure of being able one day to say: ‘my aunt d’Uzai.'” Mme de Cambremer-Legrandin’s praise of Saint-Loup, and speculation that he had been her lover. Marcel mentions his friendship with M. Legrandin to Mme de Cambremer-Legrandin, and “At the sound of his name he assumed the same evasive air I had on the subject of Mme de Guermantes, but combined with it an expression of displeasure for she imagined that I had said this with the object of humiliating not myself but her.” Despite the feelings of her husband’s sisters and sister-in-laws, she was not “gnawed by despair at having been born a Legrandin, but, instead, “She suffered not all from having been born Legrandin, for she had forgotten the fact altogether.” Marcel meets the wife and son of the barrister, who speaks badly of the large number of foreigners at Balbec, before in inviting him to his home to see his collection of Le Sidaners. Before leaving, Mme de Cambremer invites Marcel to luncheon, tempting him with dazzling guests and the promise that she would play Chopin for him. The judge, who used years past had been one of the regular guests at Feterne, much to the envy of Marcel, hears Marcel’s invitation, and is not at all happy about it, despite his protests. The bells, and another reference to Pelleas, one that Mme de Cambremer-Legrandin does not understand. Rosemond and Gisele tell Albertine it’s time to leave, and are shocked when she says she is staying with Marcel. The unhappiness of the lift-boy when he realizes that because of the third person in the elevator, Marcel is not comfortable giving him his usual five franc tip. How would the staff behave if there was a revolution?
Again, so many great passages:
I loved the description of the wife and son of the barrister:
“I asked for an exact description of them and hastened in search of them. The wife had a round face like certain flowers of the ranunculus family, and a large vegetal growth at the corner of her eye. And, the generations of mankind preserving their characteristics like a family of plants, just as on the blemished face of his mother, an identical growth, which might have helped towards the classification of a variety of the species, protruded below the eye of the son.” And then a bit further on… “the wife and son, blessed with a vegetal nature, listened composedly.”
Funny, yet at the same time indicative of Proust’s ongoing interest in…nature, heredity, and um…plants.
And this passage describing the bells:
“In the sunlight on the horizon that flooded the golden coastline of Rivebelle, invisible as a rule, we could just make out, barely distinguishable from the luminous azure, rising from the water, rose-pink, silvery, faint, the little bells that were sounding the Angelus round about Feterne. ‘That is rather Pelleas, too,’ I suggested to Mme de Cambremer-Legrandin. ‘You know the scene I mean,’ ‘Of course I do’ was what she said; but ‘I haven’t the faintest idea’ was the message proclaimed by her voice and features, which did not mould themselves to the shape of any recollection, and by her smile, which floated in the air without support.”
Is there anyone among us who hasn’t pretended knowledge of a book, work of art, piece of music, that in reality, we hadn’t a clue about?
And this from the judge/First President while pretending he didn’t care about not being invited to Mme de Cambremer’s luncheon:
“We’re not on the best of terms. She feels that I neglect her. Good heavens, I’m easy enough to get on with. If anybody needs me, I’m always there to say: Present! But they tried to get their hooks in me. And that…that is a thing I will not allow. It’s a threat to the liberty of my holidays. I was obliged to say: Stop there! You seem to be in her good books. When you reach my age, you will see that society is a paltry thing, and you will be sorry you attached so much importance to these trifles.”
“Seeing him ready, in his despair, to fling himself down from the fifth floor of the hotel, I asked myself whether, if our respective social stations were to be altered, in consequence let us say of a revolution, instead of politely working his lift for me the lift-boy, having become a bourgeois, would not have flung me down the well, and whether there was not, in certain of the lower orders, more duplicity than in society, where, no doubt, people reserve their offensive remarks until we are out of earshot, but their attitude towards us would not be insulting if we were hard up.”
Am I wrong in really liking, despite the spittle, despite the stubble of a toothbrush moustache, Mme de Cambremer? There seems to be a genuineness about her, her ready acceptance of invitations no matter who they are from, and her obvious love of Chopin, despite the ups and downs of fashion. What are your thoughts about her and her daughter-in-law?
And to conclude, for the weekend, this from Harold Bloom:
“Proust’s main concern is not social history or sexual liberation of the Dreyfus affair (although he was consistently an active supporter of Dreyfus). Aesthetic salvation is the enterprise of his vast novel; Proust challenges Proust as the major mythmaker of the Chaotic Era. The story he creates is a visionary romance depicting how the Narrator matures from Marcel into the novelist Proust, who in the books’ final volume reforms his consciousness and is able to shape his life into a new form of wisdom. Proust rightly judged that the Narrator would be most effective if he could assume a dispassionate stance regarding the mythology that raises the narrative into a cosmological poem, Dantesque as well as Shakespearean. Balzac, Stendhal, Flaubert are left behind into a vision that compounds Sodom and Gomorrah, Jerusalem, and Eden: three abandoned paradises. The Narrator, as a Gentile heterosexual, is more persuasive as a seer of this new mythology.”
The Weekend’s Reading:
Moncrieff: Page 307 “As soon as we were alone had moved along the corridor…” through Page 337 “At such moments she was truly celestial.”
Sturrock: Page 223 “As soon as we were alone and had started down the corridor…” through Page 244 “At such moments she was truly celestial.”
Enjoy. And enjoy your weekend.